Texas AG says he will help judges who are fined or sued for denying same-sex marriage licenses
Most states that previously banned same-sex marriages say they will respect Supreme Court ruling
Alabama high court says it's suspending the marriages for 25 days so "parties" can address ruling
With last week’s Supreme Court ruling, same-sex couples are flocking to the altar in all 50 states, right?
There are still a few holdouts, as various politicians take firm stands against a 5-to-4 high court decision they argue is revisionist, or illegal even.
Until Friday, same-sex marriage was already allowed in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Now, as wedding bells ring across much of the nation, here’s a look at the states that have been less than enthusiastic about the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.
We’ll begin with Texas and Alabama, which have raised the most voluminous protests. Although same-sex marriage was legal in Alabama before Friday thanks to a federal court decision, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has remained notoriously resilient in his opposition, maintains that last week’s high court decision does not mark the end of his fight.
“A judge-based edict that is not based in the law” – that’s how Attorney General Ken Paxton described the Supreme Court ruling in a Sunday statement.
This, two days after he compared the ruling to the abortion decision, Roe V. Wade, which he cited as another example of how the U.S. Constitution “can be molded to mean anything by unelected judges.”
“But no court, no law, no rule, and no words will change the simple truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Nothing will change the importance of a mother and a father to the raising of a child. And nothing will change our collective resolve that all Americans should be able to exercise their faith in their daily lives without infringement and harassment,” his Friday statement said.
In denouncing what he called a “fabricated” and “newly invented” constitutional right, the state’s top law enforcement official repeatedly invoked freedom of religion and said he had issued an opinion, at Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s request, that the state’s county clerks “retain religious freedoms that may allow accommodation of their religious objections to issuing same-sex marriage licenses.”
Similarly, he wrote, judges “may claim that the government cannot force them to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies over their religious objections.”
Paxton acknowledged that officials refusing to issue licenses to same-sex couple may be sued or fined, but he assured such-minded judges and clerks that “numerous lawyers” will help defend their rights, perhaps on a pro bono basis, and his office stands ready to assist them as well.
Call it same-sex marriage redux.
When a federal court issued a ruling that cleared the path for same-sex marriage in Alabama earlier this year, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore told Alabama’s probate judges not to issue the licenses, prompting at least one probate judge to liken Moore’s stance to then-Gov. George Wallace’s “stand in the schoolhouse door,” an assertion Moore denied.
“I’m not standing in any door. I did not bring this on. This was forced upon our state. This is simply federal tyranny,” he told CNN. “This is not about race. This is about entering into the institution of marriage.”
Following Friday’s ruling, Moore shared a Facebook post from his wife, the president of the Montgomery-based Foundation for Moral Law, “blowing the whistle on the illegitimacy of today’s decision.”
“Not only does the U.S. Supreme Court have no legal authority to redefine marriage, but also at least 2 members of the Court’s majority opinion were under a legal duty to recuse and refrain from voting. Their failure to recuse calls into question the validity of this decision,” the statement said.
(Moore told CNN in February that Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg should recuse themselves because they’ve performed same-sex marriages.)
On Monday, the state Supreme Court issued a writ of mandamus suspending same-sex marriages in Alabama for 25 days to give “parties” time to file motions “addressing” the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Moore abstained from voting, according to the vote tally included in the writ.
Gov. Robert Bentley gave no indication he would put his office’s weight behind the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
“I have always believed in the Biblical definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. That definition has been deeply rooted in our society for thousands of years. Regardless of today’s ruling by the Supreme Court, I still believe in a one man and one woman definition of marriage,” his statement said.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson has repeatedly said that he feels marriage can be only between one man and one woman, but earlier this year, he urged tolerance as the nation engages in dialogue and debate. He also acknowledged there’s a generational divide when it comes to sentiments on this issue.
Thus, it should no surprise that the governor issued a statement saying that while he didn’t care for the ruling, he’d “direct all state agencies to comply with the decision.”
But there’s a catch. He said the Supreme Court’s decision is aimed only at states and “is not a directive for churches or pastors to recognize same-sex marriage. The decision for churches, pastors and individuals is a choice that should be left to the convictions of conscience.”
Gov. Nathan Deal kept it short and simple, both on Twitter feed and in his official response.
“The state of Georgia is subject to the laws of the United States and we will follow them,” he succinctly stated, while making it clear that he feels the Supreme Court overstepped its authority on an issue that should be decided by states.
The Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives has received marching orders to revise its marriage license forms, effective Immediately, Gov. Steve Beshear said Friday.
All Cabinet positions have been directed to alter any necessary policies to implement the Supreme Court ruling, which the governor said provided clarity on a confusing and unfairly administered issue.
“The fractured laws across the country concerning same-sex marriage had created an unsustainable and unbalanced legal environment, wherein citizens were treated differently depending on the state in which they resided. That situation was unfair, no matter which side of the debate you may support,” he wrote.
In line with its staunch opposition to same-sex marriage, Louisiana is not going to roll over simply because the Supreme Court issued a ruling.
Court clerks were advised Friday to wait up to 25 days before issuing same-sex marriage licenses, as Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said he found nothing in the Supreme Court ruling that makes it effective immediately.
“Therefore, there is not yet a legal requirement for officials to issue marriage licenses or perform marriages for same-sex couples in Louisiana. The Attorney General’s Office will be watching for the Court to issue a mandate or order making today’s decision final and effective and will issue a statement when that occurs,” Caldwell said in a statement Friday.
The state amended its constitution in 2004 to define marriage as between one man and one woman, he said, boasting that he “fought to uphold Louisiana’s definition of traditional marriage.” A federal court previously upheld the amendment, but it’s expected to be overturned, in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Gov. Bobby Jindal joined Caldwell in blasting the Friday ruling, saying, “Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that.” He also worried aloud that the high court had opened the door “for an all-out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision.”
But on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the presidential hopeful said Louisiana agencies had no choice but to abide by the ruling. He still took time to lob a shot across the bow of President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who he accused of changing their position based on public opinion.
“My views on marriage aren’t evolving with the polls. I can read polls just like the President can,” he told the show. “It’s based on my faith. I think it should remain between a man and a woman.”
The matter is settled, said Gov. Rick Snyder, and Michigan “will follow the law and our state agencies will make the necessary changes to ensure that we will fully comply.”
“Let’s also recognize while this issue has stirred passionate debate, we now should focus on the values we share,” he said in his statement.
Neither Gov. Phil Bryant nor Attorney General Jim Hood did much grandstanding after the ruling, though both made it clear they disagreed with the decision.
“Today, a federal court has usurped (the) right to self-governance and has mandated that states must comply with federal marriage standards – standards that are out of step with the wishes of many in the United States and that are certainly out of step with the majority of Mississippians,” Bryant said in a statement.
Hood initially said the ruling was not “immediately effective” because the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals had a stay in place as it determined the fate of Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant. Hood appealed the U.S. District Court’s November ruling that the state’s prohibition on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional.
But he said he would not block the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.
“The Office of the Attorney General is certainly not standing in the way of the Supreme Court’s decision. We simply want to inform our citizens of the procedure that takes effect after this ruling. The Supreme Court decision is the law of the land and we do not dispute that. When the 5th Circuit lifts the stay … it will become effective in Mississippi.”
Same-sex couples could already marry in St. Louis, and judging from the response of top officials, there will be no issues expanding the right to the rest of the Show Me State.
Gov. Jay Nixon called the decision a “major victory for equality,” and citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s “binding ruling,” Attorney General Chris Koster said he had dismissed two state appeals of same-sex marriage rulings, one in the Missouri Supreme Court and one at the federal appeals level.
Chalk Nebraska up as another state where the executive branch dislikes the ruling but will follow it nonetheless – not terribly surprising when you consider seven out of 10 Nebraskans in 2000 amended the state constitution to say that the “uniting of two persons of the same sex in a civil union, domestic partnership, or other similar same-sex relationship shall not be valid or recognized.”
Still, Gov. Pete Ricketts conceded the high court ruling trumped the state constitution: “The U.S. Supreme Court has spoken. … While 70 percent of Nebraskans approved our amendment to our state constitution that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman, the highest court in the land has ruled states cannot place limits on marriage between same-sex couples. We will follow the law and respect the ruling outlined by the court.”
The state’s 2004 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was already under fire, and a federal judge earlier this year put those legal challenges on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling.
Though Gov. Jack Dalrymple was quiet on his website and social media accounts, he issued a brief statement Friday to CNN affiliate WDAZ: “The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex marriage is legal throughout the nation and we will abide by this federal mandate.”
Gov. John Kasich has said he opposes same-sex marriages but that wouldn’t stop him from attending one. In fact, he told CNN in April, he and his wife were planning to attend a gay friend’s nuptials.
“My friend knows how I feel about the issue, but I’m not here to have a war with him. I care about my friend, and so it’s pretty simple for me,” he said.
Kasich, who is expected to announce a White House bid this month, was quiet in terms of official statements Friday, but a spokesperson issued a statement to CNN affiliate WCMH: “The governor has always believed in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, but our nation’s highest court has spoken and we must respect its decision.”
The governor further told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that it is “time to move on” and focus on bigger issues.
“I think everybody needs to take a deep breath to see how this evolves,” Kasich, who was one of the original defendants in Obergefell v. Hodges, said. “But I know this: Religious institutions, religious entities – like the Catholic church – they need to be honored as well. I think there’s an ability to strike a balance.”
Attorney General Mike DeWine said he had an obligation to defend Ohio’s laws – including its 2004 voter-passed ban on same-sex marriage – but “while Ohio argued that the Supreme Court should let this issue ultimately be decided by the voters, the Court has now made its decision.”
Gov. Dennis Daugaard said he would have preferred to see the issue decided democratically, but he will work with South Dakota’s attorney general “to ascertain what this ruling means” for South Dakota, which amended its state constitution in 2006 to ban same-sex marriage.
Attorney General Marty Jackley issued his guidance the same day: “Absent further direction,” the state will honor the ruling, but it might take a “reasonable period of time” to implement it.
“It has always been my position that the citizens of our state should define marriage, and not the federal government,” Jackley said in a statement. “Five members of the U.S. Supreme Court have now determined neither the States nor our citizens have the right or the ability to define marriage. Because we are a Nation of laws the State will be required to follow the Court’s order.”
Both Gov. Bill Haslam and Attorney General Herbert Slatery III decried the high court ruling, which they said robbed Tennesseans of their voice and vote. Both leaders said they would respect the court’s decision anyway.
The sentiment was not shared by at least two of the state’s lawmakers, Reps. Bryan Terry of Murfreesboro and Andy Holt of Dresden, who announced Friday they intend to introduce a bill called the Tennessee Pastor Protection Act.
“If the issue is truly about equality of civil liberties and benefits, then this ruling should have minimal legal impact on churches,” Terry said in a statement. “However, if the issue and the cause is about redefining marriage to require others to change their deeply held religious beliefs, then the concerns of many will be valid.”
The bill would allow clergy to refuse to perform same-sex marriages and provide “legal protection from being forced to perform same sex marriages on church property,” according to a news release.
“It’s more important now than ever that we stand and resist the abuse of our own government and that is exactly what I plan to do by lobbying for the Pastor Protection Act with Rep. Terry,” Holt said in a statement, adding that he does not recognize the high court ruling. “God is the ultimate Supreme Court and he has spoken. Marriage is between one man, and one woman.”
CNN’s Alyssa Jackson and Jareen Imam contributed to this report.